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Ten RCMP employees stand in front of the Canada, Métis, and Saskatchewan flags. Eight are wearing red serge, one is wearing a duty uniform and one is wearing a suit.

RCMP embrace Métis culture and history at 'Back to Batoche Days' festival

Connecting with young people was a highlight for RCMP officers who attended Back to Batoche Days. Credit: Roxana Ehsani-Moghaddam, RCMP


Each year, thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people converge at Batoche, Sask., for Back to Batoche Days, a celebration of Métis culture and history. Cst. Vernon Hagen, who is Métis, was excited to attend the event for the first time as an RCMP officer.

"I've been meaning to go for a while," says Hagen. "For me, it's a unique opportunity because I have pride in both being an RCMP member and being a Métis person."

Hagen, a Métis community liaison officer with the Alberta RCMP, was one of several RCMP officers at the event shaking hands and taking selfies while enjoying food, fiddling, dancing, and events like the voyageur games.

Building relationships

RCMP Cpl. Joshua Dauphinee, the Métis community liaison co-ordinator with the RCMP's National Indigenous Relations Unit in Ottawa, says attending Back to Batoche Days provides a chance to connect with the people he serves and learn more about Métis culture. "It's a great opportunity to listen and a moment to learn from," says Dauphinee. "If the people I serve are there, I want to be there, too."

Glen McCallum, president of the Métis Nation—Saskatchewan, says people can see how the relationship with the RCMP is changing when officers attend events like Back to Batoche Days.

"People can visualize the partnership and see the relationship that we're building," says McCallum. "It's a time for celebration and a time to enjoy ourselves, and the RCMP is a part of that."

Looking forward

In 2019, the Métis Nation—Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan RCMP signed a safety protocol memorandum of understanding outlining how to establish a trusting and reciprocal relationship to uphold public safety and enhance relations between the RCMP and Métis citizens and communities.

"It allows us to have people in the same room to sit down and talk about how to make things better," says McCullum. "To me, reconciliation is more than just a word. It's making an impact."

Hagen says connecting with young people, something he regularly does as a Métis Community Liaison officer, is another highlight of attending Back to Batoche.

Hagen also made connections with young people as a mentor at this year's RCMP Indigenous Pre-Cadet Training program. The program is a three-week training session at the RCMP's Depot training academy in Regina where participants are introduced to the fundamentals of police work and learn about the RCMP application process.

"Seeing Indigenous youth coming up and seeing the pride and excitement that they have was eye opening and refreshing for me," says Hagen.

A complex past

Since 1970, Back to Batoche Days has been hosted on the Batoche National Historic Site. Batoche is the part of the traditional homeland of the Métis in Saskatchewan and Métis people first moved to the area in the early 1870s after the Canadian government failed to uphold promises made to Métis people when Manitoba entered Confederation.

In 1885, hoping to replicate Louis Riel's past experience bringing Manitoba into confederation, Batoche residents welcomed Riel's return from the United States to lead a provisional government and to petition the Canadian state. Ultimately, the events led to an armed resistance and The Battle of Batoche, which was fought over four days. Métis and First Nations people clashed with Canadian forces, during what would later be called the Northwest Resistance.

While the then-named North-West Mounted Police were not directly involved in the fighting at Batoche, Mounted Police officers were involved in the Northwest Resistance including the skirmish at Duck Lake, Sask., which is regarded as the initial clash of the conflict. After being convicted of high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance, Riel was hanged at the North-West Mounted Police Barracks on the grounds of what is now the RCMP Depot training academy in Regina.

McCallum says despite the rocky past, a lot has changed in the last 100 years. "We're planning out processes on how to develop better partnerships and, more importantly, programs on the ground," says McCallum. "We're continuing to work hard and have a lot of work to do."

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